Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Mentor or Coach - What's The Difference?

Having a strong mentor can really set up you up for success as a teacher.  I was fortunate to have one in my first two years of teaching, especially being able to teach alongside them in my first year of teaching.  Being able to observe teaching in practice as well as reflect while in the moment enabled me to feel more confident within my second year of teaching, especially when we worked in different areas of the school.

My mentor inspired me to take the opportunity to apply to be an AUT mentor this year and while I am in a different year level, I think continuing to learn alongside the kids allows my practice to be more transparent to someone who is observing me.

One thing I have struggled with so far is what is the difference between being a mentor and being a coach.  As with any new learning, I try to understand the definition first to help me then work out my next steps.

Mentor - an experienced and trusted adviser, a wise and trusted counselor or teacher, an influential senior sponsor or supporter.
Coach - a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes, a private tutor who prepares a student for an examination, a person who instructs an actor or singer.

From that, my baseline understanding is that you can be coached for an end result (ie, finishing your teaching qualifications), however a mentor is someone who works alongside you rather than instructing you on your next step.

The word trust really stands out for me and this is something that I have been working with being open about my practice.  The conversations have been great as it helps me reflect on why I chose to teach something in a different way and I am finding it beneficial having another set of eyes in the space to pick up on things that I might have missed.

Next Steps: Continue to have these reflective conversations about our practice, shift more of the control over and observe.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Show Me Your Working (Understanding) - My Hunch

Having changed year levels this year, developing my pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) has become a priority for myself.

This year I am team teaching in numeracy with a group of learners operating between Level 2 and Level 3 of the New Zealand Curriculum for numeracy.  This is a natural follow on for the numeracy that I was teaching in previous years and I am grateful for this foundation as I look forward to challenge myself in this space.

As the learners are operating at a higher level, my first noticing goes to how we are struggling as a group to articulate our numerical thinking when asked to explain how we came to a conclusion or got a specific answer.  My first instinct was to explore if there were particular vocabulary gaps within our group, however, what I am noticing more is a) a general lack of confidence with articulation of numerical thinking and b) a reluctance to do this in group settings aka 'the fear of getting it wrong in front of others'.

Fortunately for me, a lot of schools in our clusters are looking into this area and documenting through the use of their blogs, especially Pt England School, so it has been awesome to read and see how some of the teachers are developing these skills within their own numeracy programs.

I have also found the app Flipgrid helpful in developing the learners confidence in taking risks in articulating their strategies.  Learners are able to record themselves on their own device and listen back to themselves before posting the video to an online forum where other members of the group can listen and respond to the videos.  This has also served as a great link with our cybersmart curriculum.

Next Steps: Continue to look for opportunities to build these communication skills within our numeracy program.  I also need to see if the team will let me pay for a Flipgrid membership as the free version only allows you to activate one grid at a time.

I am also going to connect with some of my colleagues at Pt England to see how they are finding their PD and what are their learnings so far.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Closing The Door - My Hunch

Working in an ILE, you do get used to the hum or buzz that comes with 70 bodies within one space all undertaking their learning.  However for some of our learners, this can serve more as a distraction and they may seek out spaces where they a) feel comfortable and b) feel safe to take risks in their learning.

So come to this year where I am operating in a learning space with 100 learners and three other teachers, it seemed somewhat wrong to try the following.  I took a group of learners into one of our larger breakout spaces and I closed the door.  Their faces said it all when they smiled.  The transformation of the space went from hustle and bustle to a more calming vibe and the kids sensed it as soon as the door touched the wall.

Now it is not my intention to close these learners off from the rest of the hub.  My inquiry is focused more around how the environment can be used to foster independent learning.  The "Bat Cave", as it has been named, is serving as a launching pad where learners can develop strategies to focus on their learning, rather than get caught up in the activity that is happening around them.

I did something more extreme and this has put me in the learning pit.  I took all the furniture out of the space (see the photos below).  I am curious to see what the learners feel that need or by observation, we decide as a group is important to have in the space to help us with our learning.  So far we haven't asked for much as we have been working on building the routines and structure of our literacy learning.  This group is with another teacher for numeracy so we are working together to create the norms for the Bat Cave, co-constructed with the kids.

We decided that we needed a whiteboard the other week - the smart board that we couldn't get working wasn't adding any value so we were fortunate enough to appropriate one that wasn't being used in another part of the school.

Next Steps: I have had a few teachers come and observe me which has been great for my practice.  I need to look at developing my knowledge around using the environment as the third teacher so will be exploring some of the content by Reggio Emilia.

Friday, 2 March 2018

What's On Top for 2018?

Recently we have been asked to build our inquiries for 2018.  Given the nature of who I am as a teacher and how my brain works, I intend to embark on three inquiries this year - one being my main inquiry for the year and two smaller ones that focus more on specific elements of my practice.

My main focus this year is how I can use space as another teacher within my literacy program.  I will be labelling these posts with Inquiry - Environment.  This goal also speaks to some of our COL achievement challenges, with particular focus on goals two, three and five.

My secondary focus will be examining how I am developing learners' articulation skills within numeracy.  These posts will be called Inquiry - We.  This also has connections to the COL achievement challenge six.

My last focus is reflecting on myself as a practitioner, especially as I am a mentor teacher to an AUT student this year.  This posts, called Inquiry - Me, will be focusing on my reflections as I build my coaching ability with an adult.

While I appreciate that it may seem ambitious to achieve all three, I think having the platform of my blog to help me articulate will help me document my thinking and build my reflection skills further.